Thursday, 4 October 2012



Over the last ten years or so, Luc Besson has got the mid-range action movie off to something approaching a fine art. Starting with Kiss Of The Dragon back in 2001, they usually consist of a glamorous European location (usually France), either an action star (Jet Li, Jason Statham) or a respected name actor (John Travolta, Jean Reno) in the lead role and plenty of violence, fights, car chases and explosions. Some of these have been pretty good - the first of the Transporter series is certainly Statham's best "vehicle" to date - while others, such as Colombiana and From Paris With Love, have been passably entertaining but silly and empty: they're fun enough while they're on but they quickly evaporate.

The respected name actor in 2008's Taken was no less than Liam Neeson: suddenly downshifting from "proper" films like Batman Begins and Kingdom Of Heaven into violent popcorn exploitation nonsense. Evil white slavers seized Neeson's daughter; he flew straight over and kicked major Albanian scumbag ass, and that was as deep, complex and emotional as it got. Taken 2 kicks off immediately afterwards, with the father of the chief Albanian white slaver vowing to avenge his son's death and rounding up a gang of nondescript thugs to snatch Neeson, daughter Maggie Grace and wife Famke Janssen. Needless to say, this is a monumentally stupid thing to do. But then they're a particularly stupid bunch anyway - not searching Neeson to find his second phone, leaving him on his own with plenty of time to free himself, putting a bag on his head so he can't see where he's being taken but driving past plenty of handy sound effects....

The big cause of contention with Taken 2 is the pre-certification edit done to secure a box-office friendly 12A certificate. On the face of it that doesn't seem such a stupid move, as it theoretically means more cash in the till. But editing a 15 film in order to attract an audience who by rights shouldn't have seen the original (which was itself cut from 18 for cinemas, and then restored to 18 for the DVD release), and are easily too young for it, doesn't make sense. Twelve-year-olds would have been eight when the first Taken was released! Successive Terminator and Die Hard films have come down from 18 to 15 to 12A, but they're franchises that entered popular culture in the way that the Taken films certainly haven't.

Besides, they'll doubtless save the meatier 15 version for the DVD release so there's no real reason to see it at the cinema. In the event, it's tolerable and efficient enough action nonsense with enough squealing tyres and crunchy (albeit trimmed) fight sequences to just about get by. It's no masterpiece, it's extraordinarily silly and implausible in places, it has no humour and it has no subtlety to it, and it really is little more than the first one warmed over a bit, to the extent that you half expect Neeson to mutter "how can the same **** happen to the same guy twice?" in the manner of Die Hard 2. Not awful, but scarcely essential.


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